Wednesday, July 18, 2007

DC...A Monumental City

What's up everybody? Well, I'm just at the halfway point of my amazing experience here in the Federal City (George Washington referred to it as this, as he was too humble to speak of a city named after him) and I still feel like I have so much left to see. I have done a lot of it, but in a place like DC there is always stuff you gotta save for next time.

Obviously one thing that makes DC special is the great selection of monuments. I have to say that this has been one of my favorite parts of the city. When I visited Europe, it was amazing to see all of their historic and important buildings. But DC, although it may not be as old, is definitely a special place. It sounds cheesy, but seeing the Arc de Triomphe or the Colosseum isn't as important if you are a tourist. The same goes for DC; standing at the Lincoln Memorial or reading the inscriptions at the Jefferson Memorial is a truly awe-inspiring experience when you know that everything you are seeing is part of your history and your country.

...can't you hear the Star-Spangled Banner playing? Since a wise man once told me that your history essays shouldn't end exhibiting that feeling, I'll move on.

This is a quote from FDR placed at the National World War II Memorial.

Apparently people were worried that this new memorial would disrupt the view from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. I'm glad they were worried, but it looks like it turned out okay to me.

This is the Freedom Wall. There are about 4,000 stars on it, each one representing 100 American dead during World War II.

All the states have a pillar encircling the memorial. I don't know what order was chosen, but for some reason Tennessee and Louisiana, the two states where I've spent most of my life, are right next to each other.

Of course I had to try my hand at one of the most famous photo spots in the country...what do you think?

Here's Lincoln - that pretty much says it all. Always ranked as one of the greatest US Presidents, reading the selections from his greatest speeches was quite moving, even though I had heard all the words before.

This is the Korean War Veterans Memorial. This was another new one for me, and I think it may be a new favorite. It's pretty simple - just about a dozen or so slightly greater than life size statues of men on the march, with a photographic wall in the background to further set the setting. I like how it portrayed the people as they would have been, rather than just use an austere building to commemorate them. Also, that shot at the top is a close-up on one of the soldiers.

When I went to DC with the Safety Patrol in 4th grade (yea, I wore a little orange sash and told kids a year younger than me to walk in the halls) the Jefferson Memorial was my favorite. Seeing it now, I feel like the water around it got smaller. I could have sworn that it was on the coast, like, at the ocean. Other than that, it's still my favorite Memorial. I love the bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson in the middle. Oddly, Jefferson is one of my favorite Presidents now. Maybe I subconsciously chose that because I liked his monument as a kid. Who knows?

IN RECENT NEWS my faaaavorite band, the Old 97s is coming to the area - Baltimore to be precise. That may not mean much for a lot of people, but it is huuuuge for me. This will be my third time seeing them. The other two were road trips to Texas, complete with late drives back home after the show, freshman and junior year at Cent. Maybe when you are at Centenary next year we'll both be lucky enough to have an area show. If you like their music and it happens, we will ride together.

In between the folklife festival and perusing the many monuments and sites, my girlfriend Ali came up to visit me and the Capitol for a few days, though I'm not sure which she was was really hurtin to see. We had a blast visiting museums, eating (which, in all honesty, was probably the highlight of our trip), and waterparking. We also enjoyed the 4th of July celebrations, tho we opted for the less-hectic/more free food version at the home of family I'm staying with. I'll try and chuck up some photos of that as soon as I get a hold of em.

P.S. For those of you who don't know, Ali is the standout keeper for the Centenary Ladies Soccer team. She was named 1st Team All-Louisiana by the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, and it's also a well-kept secret that she has the Centenary record for both most saves in a game and in a season. She also ranked 4th in the nation among D-1 goalies in saves per game her sophomore year. Since this blog isn't about her, I'll stop. But that does give you one more reason to come to Centenary and help the ladies make their first winning season since I've been here. I bet that little tidbit is yet another well-kept secret around here.

But it's no secret that Centenary athletics needs allll the support it can muster. If you do come to Centenary in the future, you have to sign my online but nevertheless legally binding contract to come to one athletic event every two weeks and cheer on the Gents (or whatever they are by the time you make it). That, our new AD and the revamped image of our conference, the Summit League, and Ole Cent should be well on its way to reclaiming the glory days of stomping Notre Dame, Texas, and LSU in to the mud.

Like I promised two blogs ago, here's the shot from my buildings rooftop. Its a really nice secret up there. Me and other interns like to go up there and have lunch, warm up (its frigid in the office) and gossip about our crazy bosses...someone remind me to tell you all about my one boss, Richard James Burgess - there's a lot to tell. In the picture you can see the National Museum of Air and Space, the National Museum of the American Indian (yes, the Smithsonian doesn't say Native American), and the US Capitol Building. The latter two are among that list of sites I was talking about earlier that I still need to see. With that in mind, I need a full days' energy for tomorrow so I can keep it all up. I'll send you off with two of my attempts at artistic photography. Subject: the oddly-two-toned Washington Monument.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Post-Festival Wrap Up

It's been really crazy here lately. The Folklife Festival finished up this past Sunday. It sure was a blast, but I'm glad to be back in my normal routine.

If you didn't catch my ridiculously extensive post detailing the festival last time, it was all about the folk traditions, musical and otherwise, of Virginia, Northern Ireland, and the Mekong River. Most of the time I worked in the Festival Marketplace, trying to hawk CD's to literally thousands of people. Since there were separate cashiers for everything, all me and the other interns did (as well as some of my bosses) was answer questions people had and basically just talk about every type of folk and world music you can imagine, be it with each other or the people coming through. For me at least, that was really fun. Whenever that was boring though, we could bounce around the festival listening to music and watching demonstrations.

At the risk of sounding fat, one of the funnest parts was eating ;) To go along with the theme, there was food from all the different cultures. We had everything from sweet basil chicken from Thailand to West African barbecue chicken with peanut sauce to Irish sausages rolled and baked in puffed pastry served with baked beans. But the best part was that it was all free to interns, including the delicious fresh squeezed lemonade, limeade, and mango juice.

But my actual favorite part of the festival was all the great music available all day and every night for free. With so much going on, I didn't get to see all the people I wanted to but I still heard plenty of great music. One of the most enjoyable was the Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert. At the end a cajun fiddle group BeauSoleil played a great blend of authentic Cajun fiddle tunes well into the night. It really made me glad that I've gotten to experience Lousiana and Centenary (I know Shreveport isn't exactly Cajun-land, but hey, it's way closer than Tennessee). I wished I had some crawfish to chow down on - thanks to Maggie/Megan for showing me how to eat it and Tim for buying it for us every spring: yes, if you have no other reason, you can come to Centenary for the free crawfish boil during Preview Weekend.

Here are some shots I took while audio logging at one of the Virginia stages. Every performance and talk was recorded so that researchers can listen to first hand explanations of different cultures from around the world.

Click for VIDEO!

This is Scott Fore, a Virginia native and self-taught flatpicking guitarist who has won numerous national awards and contests. (This time, instead of bigger pictures, clicking the photos will take you to a link of a short, low quality video I filmed of the people performing)

Click for VIDEO!

Here is the Bou Counta Ndiaye Ensemble, a group of traditional griot singers and musicians from Senegal. They sing in Wolof, the indigenous language of the region, and their songs are about wars, kings, and basically the history of their people. After taking Francophone African Literature and learning about these traditions this past fall, actually getting to see an example of authentic West African culture was a rare and welcomed treat.

Click for VIDEO!

But my favorite group was Cephas & Wiggins, a Piedmont blues duo that I have to say felt like some of the most authentic music I had ever heard. Listening to it almost made me wish that everyone I know left me and my dog died, just so I could sing the Blues like they did. Every time they finished performing people would rush to the marketplace to buy their CD's. Although it's no substitute for the real thing, click on the picture to check out a lil clip of Cephas explaining the difference between Piedmont and Delta Blues.

Click for VIDEO!

Another great band was No Speed Limit, a bluegrass group out of Virginia. They played some great tunes during the first week of the festival and were one of the most popular requests at the marketplace. Click the photo to see them do a hard-driving rendition of an old song, "Ruby" and the guitarist even gets in some Deep Purple improv toward the end.

As you can tell there was a variety of music, and all of that was just from Virginia. At the other end of the mall were the Irish doing their thing with their cool accents, and in between the Mekong participants were bringing something from the other side of the world. All in all it was awesome.

If the Folklife Festival sounds like something you might like, then you should definitely try to make it next year. I hear Texas is going to be one of the cultures featured, and field researchers are already scouring that huge, greasy state (or atleast, that's what a local once described it to me as) for participants. Since 85% of Centenary is from Tejas, I'm sure yall will all enjoy whatever they got going on next Summer.

I think Piper is already asleep here, and I'm tired too. See ya next time.

Piper says hello!